LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Kanye West sold almost a million copies of his latest album during its first week in U.S. stores, winning a much-hyped sales race with rival rapper 50 Cent and providing the ailing record industry with a rare piece of good news.
According to sales data issued on Tuesday by tracking firm Nielsen SoundScan, West’s “Graduation” sold 957,000 copies during the six days ended September 16, while 50 Cent’s “Curtis” trailed with 691,000. West also bested 50 Cent in the U.K.
West’s tally is the largest for any album since 50 Cent’s previous release “The Massacre,” which opened to 1.1 million units in March 2005 and spent six weeks at No. 1. It surpasses the 860,000-unit bow of West’s previous album, “Late Registration,” which spent two weeks at No. 1 in 2005.
Based on first-day sales, pundits had expected West’s latest album to sell more than 750,000 copies for the week.
The rivalry between the rappers — which both said was more of a marketing invention than a reality — rekindled faded memories of a time when excited music fans would swamp record stores to snap up new albums.
The music industry has been in a tailspin for the better part of a decade, ravaged by piracy, and it’s rare for albums to debut with such hefty numbers. In fact, for several weeks this year, the top seller sold less than 100,000 copies. Overall album sales so far this year are off about 15 percent from the year-ago period, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
“I am very excited to have participated in one of the biggest album release weeks in the last two years,” said 50 Cent, who will forever have to live down a promise that he would retire if West beat him.
“Collectively, we have sold hundreds of thousands of units in our debut week. This marks a great moment for hip hop music, one that will go down in history.”
Until last week, the largest sales week of 2007 had belonged to rock band Linkin Park’s “Minutes to Midnight,” which opened to 623,000 units. The biggest week of 2006 went to country combo Rascal Flatts’ “Me and My Gang,” with 722,000.
Both West and 50 Cent — whose real name is Curtis Jackson — are signed to the world’s biggest record company Universal Music Group, which is owned by French media concern Vivendi